Tag Archives: education

Clean and Sober

Today I reach a milestone: I have been clean and sober for 35 years. I have lived more than half my life with a spiritual program that keeps me without drugs or alcohol—one day at a time.

I find it inconceivable that it has been 35 years since I had a beer or smoked a joint. Inconceivable!  (And yes, I know what that means.)

It is easier for me to believe that I got drunk last week and have been lying about it.

But it’s true. 35 years.

These have been monumental years. Years of amazing accomplishments, personal and spiritual growth.

As with everyone my age, big events have taken place. Marriages, divorces, births, deaths, creative accolades, cancers. Huge events. Emotional events. Certainly events worth drinking over, either in grief or in celebration.

truth and loveLife is not easy. But sobriety is its own reward.

All of these major life events are the stuff of the human experience, and I have been fortunate enough to be present and clear-headed for it all.

I think that’s our reason for being: to experience the human condition in all its intricacies.  Booze and drugs gloss over those intricacies, dull those edges, flatten out those highs and lows, fill in the cracks wherein we might mine for the gold placed precisely there for precisely us.

Drinking and drugging is a waste of time, a waste of money, and a waste of personality.

I am beyond fortunate. I am one of the very fortunate ones who have been able to get sober and stay sober. God willing, I will die sober. But I am in the minority. Drug and alcohol addiction is so sneaky, so calmly patient and doggedly persistent, that when we falter, it is there, waiting with a “fix” to whatever transient problem catches us at a weak moment.

But those aren’t fixes. They’re insulators. They’re a horror show in a bottle. They’re death by slow torture, and they take all our loved ones down with us.

I may be 35 years clean and sober, but I am only one drink away from disaster, and I think about that every single day.

Today I will go to a meeting and share my experience, strength and hope: If I can do it, you can do it. And that is absolutely true.

And then I will go about my life, living in gratitude. I am not only grateful for everything that I’ve been given in life, but grateful for every mind-altering substance I ingested that brought me to my knees and introduced me to the spiritual program that gives me solid tools for living.

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How to Write a Sizzling Sex Scene

From my new book, now available for the Kindle, the Nook, and other electronic readers.

I decided to write this small book right after I got yet another call from a writer’s conference director asking me if I would come give my sex talk at her conference.

My sex talk.

For years, I’ve been teaching weekend workshops on writing erotica for women (and one memorable one for men—more on that later) and giving short conference-sized workshops on how to write well-crafted sex scenes. Sex scenes are crucial to good fiction; they’re excellent opportunities to reveal character, and there’s a simple structure to it. These classes are wildly popular, and they have made me an “in demand” instructor at writer’s conferences and conventions all over the world.

sex scene book cover

In fact, occasionally I will walk down the hall at a writer’s conference and hear furtive whispers: “There goes the sex writer.”

Sex writer! As if I were a pornographer. I could be insulted, but I’m not; I’m amused.

The classroom is packed with expectant faces. What is she going to do? (What do they think? Unbutton my blouse?) What is she going to say? (What do they think? Run down a list of dirty words?)

I talk about writing. I talk about the sexual nature of their fictional characters. I talk about the three-act structure of a scene, and the three-act structure of a sex scene. I talk about practicing writing. I talk about vocabulary and what to call body parts. I talk about the difference between pornography and erotica. I talk about revealing character to the reader, and revealing character at a most vulnerable moment.

Those in the audience, they hear me—they’re taking notes—but I know they’re not thinking of their fictional characters. They’re thinking of themselves. This is what makes these classes so popular. I don’t use any dirty words. I don’t name any body parts. I talk about writing, but they’re all thinking of themselves. They think of themselves as fictional characters and they look at their sexuality. My class gives them permission to do that. And it’s fun, because they can ask thinly veiled questions: “My character has this problem…” And we pretend she’s talking about her character. I make light of it, and I can do that without insulting her, because we’re not talking about her, we’re talking about a character in her novel. She can laugh and learn and everybody else laughs and learns.

Sex is, after all, pretty funny.

Occasionally, it gets a little heavy, a little dicey, and I am always the first to hold up my hand and claim that I am not a therapist; I am a writer. This class (or seminar) is not about pain or healing your sexual issues. We’re talking about fiction here. And even that gets a laugh.

Then I give them an assignment and ten minutes to practice what they’ve learned in the past hour. After ten minutes, I open the microphone and they line up to read the portion of a sex scene they’ve written.

It’s hilarious. It’s moving. It’s astonishing. They have no problem saying those words, naming those body parts.

And we all go home thinking of ourselves and our sexual nature in a little different way. Certainly none of us ever looks at our fictional characters in the same way again; most of us look at our spousal units in a very good way later that evening.

I think that’s the real reason these classes are so popular. Even though I don’t talk dirty, I don’t tell smutty jokes, I don’t demonstrate anything vulgar on stage, everybody in the audience employs their largest sexual organ—their brain—for the hour and a half (or weekend) we’re together, and they learn a little bit about human nature. Their nature. Which is what writing is all about: Fearless, relentless introspection.

Of course the writer in me is always worried that I’ll drop dead some day soon and be remembered for giving the sex talk instead of the short stories, essays and novels that I so agonize over.

But in the meantime, I’ll go to another writer’s conference and give my “sex talk” and laugh and have fun, learn a little, teach a little, and best of all, spend time with other writers.

And now there’s a book.

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2013: Year of Sustainability

I’ve been naming my years lately. 2009 was my Year of Hesed (lovingkindness). 2010 was my Year of the Tao. 2011, my Year of Living Simply. 2012, my Year of Forgiveness. I did a lot of forgiving this past year, both of myself for my gaffes, stupid comments/acts and poking my nose into other peoples’ business, and for others who did the same to me or in my presence. I have a long way to go toward being the type of loving, non-judgmental human being I aspire to be, but a healthy dose of forgiveness goes a long way toward achieving that goal.

In 2013, I want the focus to be on sustainability.  I want to think “Sustainability!” in every area of my life, with the hope that the things that I do and say prompt others to start thinking in channels of sustainability. I’ve already begun eating a plant-based diet, as our meat and dairy production facilities are unsustainable for the world.

Theologian Matthew Fox, in his amazing book A New Reformation wrote: “Sustainability is another word for justice, for what is just is sustainable, and what is unjust is not.”

This is as good a definition of justice as I have ever heard. As “Social Justice” is one of the new buzzwords these days, I’m not sure those who promote it can define it. This is a good definition, and I hope all will eventually adopt it.

This year I will be mindful about my consumption. I will work for sustainable causes, whether it be in education, in social reform, health care, politics, or self-expression. I believe that the planet teeters on the brink of a sustainability revolution, and if I can help to push awareness over the brink, I will.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Inclusive vs. Divisive

Two things are happening right now that have me thinking.

The first is The Owl Box. I’ve been watching a wild barn owl, Molly, and her mate McGee, hatch out and raise their owlets in an owl box outfitted with cameras in San Marcos, California. Three owlets and two eggs as of this writing, with three million people worldwide watching and waiting for owlet number four.

I’m not as addicted as some in the chat room, but I am fascinated, and keep her site up as I work at my desk. I’ve learned a lot about the habits of wild owls. This is the internet at its best, and the site is raising money for bird habitat in the San Diego County area by selling t-shirts, mugs and mouse pads. Excellent.

The other thing currently going on that has me thinking is the tea party movement. They’re holding rallies starting in Nevada, and ending, presumably in Washington, D.C. My political leanings are no secret: I’ve been a Libertarian and disappointed. I’ve been a Republican and disappointed. I’m currently leaning a little left and am sure to be disappointed.

However. Never in my memory have I heard of a senator threatened because of a vote he cast, or heard truly hateful, despicable comments thrown at our elected representatives as they walk to work. Really? Is this who we want to be?

The owl box has brought people all over the world, especially school children, together to learn amazing and fascinating things about the world we live in. Grade schools are rerouting their lesson plans to include Molly. Nobody cares who’s Republican or Democrat. Everybody is suddenly excited about wild bird habitat, nature, and watching baby owls eat rodents and grow feathers. We all have this common interest, and I believe some lifelong friendships have been made in the owl box chatroom. I’m certain that future conservationists are watching in their classrooms.

Contrast that with what the tea party is teaching our children.

What kind of a person do you want to be? Inclusive? Or Divisive? Is there room in your life for both rodents and owls, or do you want only owls? Is there room in our democracy for all viewpoints? There should be. We should be able to take any controversial issue, discuss it rationally, agree and agree to disagree and then watch as the experiment continues.

It’s up to us. Each of us, individually, have a responsibility to teach our children–and maybe each other–that there is no right or wrong way. There is only how we react to the process.

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